On the outskirts of Palenque, located near the Mexico-Guatemala border approximately 300 mi/485 km southwest of Merida, lie some of the most impressive Mayan ruins in the country. Climb the tall Temple of the Inscriptions and then descend to the site of the impressive, restored crypt of the Mayan king Pakal. The crypt itself is closed off to visitors, but there's a replica at the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Investigate other ruins to look at carvings and bas-reliefs.

We consider Palenque well worth a visit, but it is extremely hot and humid in the summer. To avoid the worst of it, get an early-morning start.

If you leave the park following the Otulum River down the hill, you will discover several excavated temples and get to many pretty waterfalls cascading into natural bathing pools, a great place to cool off after wandering around the ruins. Some pleasant hotels are found in the village, if you wish to overnight in the area.

If you have time, travel 60 mi/100 km south to the Agua Azul waterfalls. These turquoise cascades are some of Mexico's natural wonders (just try to ignore the tacky food huts dotting the lower end of the falls). You can swim there, but do so with care—several people have drowned.

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